Read Psalm 73
A psalm of Asaph.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
From the time we are on the playground to the time we are in retirement, we struggle with good things happening to bad people and bad things happening to good people. We wonder why mean people win and get all the glory while nice people seem to lose and get all the grief. When this happens it’s enough to make us ask the question, “Why work so hard to be good when those who behave badly succeed?”
The writer of Psalm 73, Asaph, gives voice to this same struggle in verse 3: “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” We hear you, Asaph! But what are we supposed to do with this frustration? Verses 16 and 17 tell us: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”
What Asaph knew and we must remember is that we are playing the long game: running a marathon, not a sprint. As humans, it is easy to focus on the here and now, crying out to God to fix our present problems. We may be ignorant of others’ hearts and needs as we rush to judgment in our own fear and failures. We see only the unfairness of the situation when we view it through our own lens rather than trying to view our situation from God’s perspective. We can forget that God sees all dimensions of the past, present, and future in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:3-14).
We can’t forget what we know:
- We know this world is not our home (John 15:19).
- We know that we are called to a higher purpose (Romans 8:28).
- We know we are in the midst of spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12).
- We know that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33).
- But we also know to be encouraged because Jesus has overcome the world! Praise God! What the world offers cannot compare to what God offers us in Himself.
May we declare verses 26-28: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”
- What has been a time of affliction for you? How did you handle the frustration of seeing the wicked win?
- What are some practical ways to remind yourself of the things we know listed above?
- If you believe these things to be true, how should they be reflected in your actions during times of affliction?
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